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Political Parties at War: A Study of American War Finance, 1789–2010

Authors: Sarah E. Kreps, and Gustavo A. Flores-Macias
Vol. 107, No. 4 November 2013
The American Political Science Review


What determines when states adopt war taxes to finance the cost of conflict? We address this
question with a study of war taxes in the United States between 1789 and 2010. Using logit
estimation of the determinants of war taxes, an analysis of roll-call votes on war tax legislation,
and a historical case study of theCivilWar, we provide evidence that partisan fiscal differences account for whether theUnited States finances its conflicts through war taxes or opts for alternatives such as borrowing or expanding the money supply. Because the fiscal policies implemented to raise the revenues for war have considerable and often enduring redistributive impacts, war finance—in particular, war taxation—becomes a high-stakes political opportunity to advance the fiscal interests of core constituencies. Insofar as the alternatives to taxation shroud the actual costs of war, the findings have important implications for democratic accountability and the conduct of conflict.

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